Systems Approach Framework (SAF)

Contact person: Josianne Støttrup

From the last decades until present days coastal areas have been one of the most pressured ecosystems on Earth and this has created continuous threats to the environment, ultimately translated into impacts that needed to be managed in order to protect the oceans and regional seas.

One of these management responses is the Systems Approach Framework (SAF), developed within the SPICOSA project by 54 research institutes and universities across European Union. It aimed to develop and test a toolbox of methods for providing multidisciplinary and trans-disciplinary advice to environmental managers and policy-makers concerning environmental problems in the coastal zone, in order to improve the zone’s ecological sustainability, economic efficiency, and social equity.

SAF is a holistic research approach for the integrated assessment of coastal systems the best available scientific knowledge shall be mobilized to support deliberative decision-making processes aimed at improving the sustainability of coastal systems by implementing suitable ICM policies (Hopkins et al., 2011). The SAF approach incorporates the human dimension into the definition of systems, which helps us to understand how ecosystems and society interact. With the SAF we are able to confront two principle challenges: that of simulating complex systems and that of creating an effective science-policy interface.

Fig. The SAF in the socio-economic context and the role external forcings and changes

This approach comprises a five main step methodology:

  • Issue Identification;
  • System Design;
  • System Formulation;
  • System Appraisal;
  • System Output;


In BaltCoast we add one important step, that of Implementation. Implementation develops a strategy for active incorporation of SAF results into a management by introducing simulation based information that directly link to EU directives and facilitates implementation of management decisions.

SAF plays a very important role throughout the BaltCoast and even has a WorkPackage (WP) dedicated to it's development, WorkPackage 2 "Systems Approach Framework (SAF) development".

The objectives of this WP are provision of:

  • initial training on SAF
  • guidance on SAF application
  • an applicable, user-friendly SAF with high practical relevance


More information about the steps of SAF and its application at

Fig: The Systems Approach Framework